KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It has been 224 days since attorneys for former Kansas City, Missouri, Police Det. Eric DeValkenaere filed an appeal of his conviction for second-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.
DeValkenaere shot and killed Cameron Lamb on Dec. 3, 2019, during a confrontation in the backyard of a residence in the 4100 block of College Avenue.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which handles appeals cases in place of the county prosecutors who secured the conviction, has been largely silent throughout the last seven months aside from the six motions for extension filed in the case.
“We continue to examine the case,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office said June 2 in its only public statement to KSHB 41 about the case after the most recent extension was granted.
But Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker, whose office tried and convicted DeValkenaere for trampling the constitution before the deadly shooting, broke her silence Tuesday as political tension bubbles around the case.
Baker published a letter to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday, asking him not to pardon DeValkenaere and “use a political action to subvert the rule of law.”
“Pardons are political actions by design, not devised for the innocent but for the guilty,” Baker wrote in a letter to Parson. “I am writing because of numerous reports that suggest you are going to soon pardon former Kansas City Detective Eric DeValkenaere. I am writing to request that you do not pardon him.”
Parson's office responded Tuesday with a statement that accuses Baker of playing "political games" and indicating that DeValkenaere has not applied for a pardon.
It’s disappointing that the Jackson County Prosecutor would play political games when Governor Parson has a proven, bipartisan record of working to improve the criminal justice system as a whole. While the prosecutor tries to earn political points for her re-election bid, Governor Parson will continue working every day to support people across the state who are affected by crime.
Governor Parson is grounded in his faith and believes in second chances. He has created more workforce training opportunities for offenders, brought the landmark Reentry 2030 program to assist offenders, and started the first law enforcement academy at a historically black college.
Governor Parson has a clear record of taking the implementation of justice seriously as evidenced by the 20 commutations and 538 pardons he has granted out of the 3,700 requested applications. Every application goes through a thorough and thoughtful review before any decision is made. Eric DeValkenaere’s will be treated the exact same if he applies.
AG’s office delays appeal
It’s been more than 3 1/2 years since DeValkenaere killed Lamb.
A Jackson County grand jury indicted DeValkenaere in June 2020 on charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.
DeValkenaere was sentenced to six years in jail in March 2022. His attorneys filed a notice of appeal within days, bringing the Missouri Attorney General’s Office into the case.
Parson, a former Polk County, Missouri, sheriff, has the discretion to issue a pardon for any conviction, but Baker said it would be unusual to do so before allowing the judicial process to conclude first.
Your pardon now would preempt Attorney General Bailey’s defense of this conviction and subvert the rule of law. The appellate process has not yet concluded.
I am aware that you have been lobbied to pardon this officer, even before his trial. I imagine you might view a pardon as a way to support police.
But I expect this extreme action for the only KCPD officer convicted of fatally shooting a Black man will ignite distrust, protests, and public safety concerns for citizens and for police.
Baker also suggested that, beyond possible civil unrest that might follow a possible pardon of DeValkenaere, such action would result in further “erosion of our public safety system as fair and just.
She continued, “A pardon of this convicted former police officer will accelerate that distrust that we already see in our system. Witnesses don’t want to testify, and victims decline to prosecute their attackers, even after suffering great injury. This distrust will only grow when you, as overseer of KCPD, choose a political action over the legal process.”
The state controls KCPD through the Board of Police Commissioners.
The Missouri governor appoints four members, and the city’s mayor also serves on the police board. Parson has appointed three current members of the KCPD Board of Police Commissioners.
Baker also urged Parson or Bailey to reach out to Lamb’s family before taking any action related to a pardon.
“I would urge you to immediately speak with the victim’s family,” she wrote. “No one from your office or the Attorney General’s Office has spoken with these victims and they deserve better. Secondly, I urge you to speak with this community. Convene a public meeting in Kansas City regarding your proposed actions. Kansas Citians deserve to be heard.”
The appeals court judge in the DeValkenaere case admonished Bailey’s office that it wouldn’t grant any more extensions in early May.
Nonetheless, Shaun Mackelprang, the deputy attorney general for the Missouri Attorney General’s Criminal Division, filed for a sixth extension in late May.
It was granted June 2 with a warning from Missouri Court of Appeals Western District Chief Judge Gary Witt that ”absolutely no further extensions will be granted.”
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has until June 26 to respond to DeValkenare’s appeal brief.
Case against DeValkenaere
Lamb, who was 26 when he was killed, allegedly was spotted by undercover officers chasing another vehicle in a red truck on Dec. 3, 2019. The undercover officers weren’t able to intervene since none were in vehicles with lights or sirens.
Lamb was no longer chasing the other vehicle and no uniformed officers had attempted to stop Lamb, who had driven back to the house where he lived and was backing into a subterranean garage at the rear of the property.
Guided by a police helicopter, two KCPD detectives, including DeValkenaere, entered the property without a warrant, permission from the property owner or probable cause that a serious crime had been committed in violation of Missouri constitutional protections, Youngs ruled at DeValkenaere’s bench trial.
DeValkenaere’s partner, Troy Schwalm, initially confronted Lamb alone as he was backing the truck into the garage.
DeValkenaere, who came from the other side of the house and knocked down a makeshift fence to enter the backyard, claimed that he saw Lamb raise a gun and point it at Schwalm before killing Lamb.
Youngs ruled that Schwalm and DeValkenaere illegally followed Lamb onto the property and were the “initial aggressors” in the deadly encounter. The judge ruled that the officers had a duty to retreat since there was no ongoing threat to the community.
Before the sentencing, Youngs allowed DeValkenaere to remain free on bond during his appeal — an unprecedented decision, the judge acknowledged.
Lamb's family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against DeValkenaere and the police board.
DeValkenaere joined KCPD in 1999. After his conviction, he left the department, though it’s unclear if it was voluntary or if he was terminated.
DeValkenaere was the first KCPD officer to stand trial for killing someone in the line of duty since 1942. Two officers were acquitted in that case for a deadly July 1941 shooting.
Politics and pardons
This wouldn’t be the first time Parson, who is term-limited and cannot seek reelection, has used his pardoning power in a politically charged case.
St. Louis-area lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey pointed guns at protestors who cut across a corner of their property while marching toward the St. Louis mayor’s house in June 2020.
Mark McCloskey pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and Patricia pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment in June 2021. The couple were fined a total of $2,750.
He declined to pardon Kevin Strickland at that time, arguing that he wasn’t convinced of his innocence, but a judge later disagreed and set Strickland free after 43 years in jail for crimes he didn’t commit.
Mark McCloskey ran for Roy Blunt’s seat in the U.S. Senate last year, losing to former Missouri Attorney General Schmitt in the primary.
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